Cheerful and Optimistic
Sevens are often characterized as Peter Pan, eternal youth. They are cheerful, optimistic, high energy, multi-interest people.
It is a short step from these accurate descriptions to think that Sevens are always happy. They often appear to be, but if you look for happiness as the chief characteristic, you will miss much of the dynamics.
Sevens purchase happiness at the price of the whole truth. Like all the numbers, Sevens skew their world-view. They don't see the whole truth. The Seven world is a scary one, but they don't experience much fear. What they do experience is a compulsion to try to be happy. When you have a compulsion, it's because there is a need, a lack, and Sevens work very hard at being happy, so it is clear they don't have it.
But they say they do. They tend to live in the future (when they are sure their current plans will bring them happiness). "Right now things are a little tense, but it will get better." Of course, none of these plans are certain, so they have backup plans.
Sevens are head types, so they use their head to create happiness. They rationalize as an important defense. If an event occurs in their life, others might call it bad, but they sort of readjust their way of looking at it until they can see the bright side. Once they see the bright side (and every cloud has a silver lining), then their spirits brighten accordingly.
When Sevens become clinically ill, their favored pathology is manic-depressive. And many Sevens could be observed to be perpetually in the manic state. You can study manic-depressive in the move, Mr. Jones, starring Richard Gere as the manic-depressive Mr. Jones. And he is Sevenish, but other numbers can also be manic-depressive (Threes, Twos and occasional Eights).
To see a Seven pathology captured, watch the German film called The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. She was the German filmmaker who glorified the Third Reich in several wonderful films, one called The Triumph of the Will that is still taught in graduate film courses and the other on the 1946 Olympics that anticipated much of contemporary video coverage.
First you see the Seven's energy. She climbed mountains, she studied endlessly, she traveled, she danced and she made friends in high places. The mountain climbing and the dancing are telltale signs of the Seven's search for expansive experiences. They feel inwardly trapped - this is their polarization. They feel confined, trapped, even suffocated at times, so they love heights, movement and high energy activities. Leni displays her love for all three.
Many Sevens are highly creative and Leni is a superb example. She is especially innovative. Sevens are susceptible to the lure of novelty. When they are talented, it is creative. When they are not, it is monotonous change, which for a Seven is not an oxymoron. All change and no stability is monotonous. It feels like traveling and spending all your time in airports. They're in different cities, but they're all alike.
Leni is still scuba diving at 90 and developing new film techniques. Many Sevens live long lives. Their enthusiasm, their low-stress coping style of looking at the high side of things and their optimistic outlook tend to be easy on the body, so they live long. When you see old folks skydiving or climbing mountains, you'll usually find a high percentage of Sevens.
Let's look at Leni's dark side. She was the most successful propagandist Hitler had. But when she tells it, she had no political interests, she was only interested in the art, editing Hitler was like editing any speaker and her chief concerns were merely technical. The interviewer lets her keep rationalizing and then juxtaposes what happened. They don't fit. Leni's version is a blindness that ignores all the consequences of her actions, it presupposes a naivete utterly impossible in such an intelligent woman, and it is clearly a reinterpretation. Her interpretation goes against everyone else's and she knows they see it differently, but she just can't see it their way. She defends her innocence against overwhelming film evidence and you can see that on one level she believes it. You can also see that she is blind and her blindness enables her to misrepresent what the reality is. She epitomizes Shakespeare's observation that "There are none so blind as those who will not see."
The film is long - a double video - and the last lines are her defending herself out of a position of innocence. She has had to contradict dozens of co-workers, historians, and the filmic evidence. But she wriggles around until she can get the right angle from which to look at it (her camera work is a lovely metaphor for her ability to see things as she wants to see them. Her ability to make Olympic divers appear to be birds, to make the athletes into Gods and Hitler into an attractive, magnetic demigod is precisely her pathology. When she tells her life story, she does the same thing: she is an artist, her only interests are esthetic and everybody else is wrong. Her filmic genius is part of the secondary gain of the pathology.
She vividly acts out both in life and on film what Sevens do: they reframe reality until they see things the way they want to. Then life is good. So when outsiders see Sevens, they are impressed with how much they enjoy life. But like Leni, they enjoy life at the expense of reality.
I referred to their polarization. Polarization is accomplished by dissociation, cutting oneself off from and denying those parts of our lives and experiences that we don't wish to include. Sevens dissociate from negative experiences. This works well in the short run because they experience mostly good things. But in reality, pain is on our side. Leprosy is an inability to experience pain, especially in the extremities. It can be dangerous, even fatal.
On some level, Sevens know that. They are unable to learn much or profit much from painful experiences, so they don't mature. It is no accident that Newt Gingrich, a Seven with an Eight wing, was pictured in diapers in a New York newspapers. Sevens often appear immature. Pain matures us, protects us and educates us about reality. Sevens probably more than any other number prompts people to say to them as you'll feel like saying to Leni Riefenstahl, "You just don't get it, do you?!" It's scary not to get it, so Sevens live in a frightening world from which they choose not to learn how to face the painful, scary parts. It's more fun to stay a child.
- Most Sevens hate to read but should read the passion narratives of Christ. The notion of deliberative redemptive pain breaks the Seven's trance somewhat.
- Many Sevens can profit from body work to help them get grounded. They tend to be fast and light, which makes good dancing, but they need to be in touch with the earth. Lifting weights or working with intractable material like stone or earth can be beneficial.
- The Enneagram Spectrum by Jerry Wagner has a good description of Sevens.
- Hugh Hefner's film biography reveals his style Seven thoroughly. And Robin Williams is a wonderful Seven until you get tired.
- How many unhappy childhood experiences can you remember?
- How excited would you get about spelunking? (Cave exploring).
- How many hobbies do you have? How accomplished are you at any of them requiring discipline?
- Sometimes Sevens can be mean if it is done with humor. Can you find examples in your life or in the life of Sevens you know? (Many public humorists are Sevens).